Home City Life Editor’s Letter: Remembering Mary Brown Malouf

Editor’s Letter: Remembering Mary Brown Malouf

Editor’s Letter: Remembering Mary Brown Malouf

“Dr. Watson, I presume?”

Arthur Conan Doyle never had Sherlock Holmes say, “Dr. Watson, I presume.” It’s a mix up of the first meeting of Watson and Holmes with the meeting of the colonial explorers Dr. David Livingston and Henry Morton Stanley in Africa. What Holmes actually said, Mary would like you to know, in his opening lines of A Study in Scarlet was: “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.” Mary would have thought this, and my clarifying footnote, hilarious.

This was the note Mary sent me before I took the job as her second-chair here at the magazine. “Dear Jeremy—If we’re clear, I’ll send an official offer letter. I want to make a few things clear about the job I’m offering you. It will be hard. This isn’t the Salt Lake magazine you asked me to join you 15 years ago. As its full-time managing editor, your writing and management load will be heavy, like mine. It’s a lot. But I still think it’s also a lot of fun.” Little did I know how hard.

Fifteen years ago was 2006. I was the much younger and very green editor of this magazine and Mary blew in for an interview. No one was sure what to make of her, myself included. In the life to come, Mary would raise a glass in the house on Reed and praise me for being the guy who hired her. But truthfully, she hired me. She put her arms around me and told me it was going to be OK. And it was, as the line goes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For 15 years, in one way, or another Mary and I worked together, within the magazine and without. When I came back as her managing editor last year, we were firing on all cylinders. We kicked off the reunion with a daring trip to Jackson, which I recount in “Road Trip: Wyoming.” Yeah, me and Mary “shoveled” a lot of words over the years (as she would say) and I loved being the Watson to her Holmes. The previous issue of this magazine was us two, standing back to back, shoveling those words together. This one? Well. What you will read in these pages is the product of Mary and our team’s last conversations, inklings and flourishes. This new design was hatched right out of Mary’s brain and made real by the brilliance of our amazing designers, Jeanine Miller and Scott Peterson.

Our “Blue Plate Awards” are an especially poignant reminder of everything we will miss from our executive editor. Mary was proud of this magazine and we’re proud to keep on making her proud. xoxomm. —Jeremy Pugh, Editor 

Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf grabs a siesta at Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park on a tour with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris last fall.

Following the passing late last year of our longtime executive editor, friend, and previously unstoppable force of nature, Mary Brown Malouf, we received a massive outpouring of support and mourning from the community that she loved and was loved by. We devoted this issue’s Reader Comment section to a selection of these many kind words. —Ed.

Afternoons and Swizzle Sticks

Mary Brown Malouf and her late husband Glen Warchol used to drop into my bookshop late in the afternoon and we would have a grand old time holding forth upon everything under the sun. Glen’s passing was really hard for her but since his death, Mary worked to get out more, do things and see people.

Around this time, my friend, the filmmaker, Trent Harris, had dragged myself and others to Dick ’n’ Dixies for after-work drinks. Mary started showing up with her pal, Jeremy Pugh, the mag’s second-chair editor, who brought along the Tribune’s Robert Gehrke and his partner Laura Petersen. Historian Will Bagley would show too and, once in a while, drag along his brother Pat, the Tribune’s cartoonist. Plus, a random gang of idiots.

In a noisy bar, it’s easy for women to get talked over, often outnumbered by loud dumb men, of which I have been told I can be. Mary might have been in the minority but by gum, she would hold her own. No matter how arcane the subject, Mary was well versed in it and knew more than you did. Before Mary started showing up, our bar conversations usually featured Trent yelling over my free-form rants. “Nobody knows what the f*** you’re talking about Sanders! Shut the f*** up.” But Mary knew. She always got what I was talking about and could add several one-ups to it.

I have yet to return to Dick ’n’ Dixie’s since the COVID came, but when I do, I know we shall all quaff a cold one in her memory. I miss everything about her, from her wind-swept hair down to her cowgirl boots. Mary, you have literally been swept away from us but you shall live on in our memories. Adios, amiga. —Ken Sanders, owner, Ken Sanders Rare Books

Beauty and the Beholder

Mary, I miss her. I liked to talk to her about art. Most people couldn’t give a damn, but she got it. It was really fun! She laughed at my dumb jokes. The last time I saw her, I gave her a small bird skull I found on the beach. She saw how beautiful it was. I talked to Mary about ducks and ants, and she listened. We were on the same page there. God, I miss Mary. —Trent Harris, filmmaker

Salt Lake’s Dorothy Parker

Mary once told me: “Everyone likes the Beatles—until they’ve had great sex. Then it’s all about The Rolling Stones.” This was after we’d killed our sixth bottle of pink champagne during a party at her home. It was her way of cutting the Gordian Knot over one of those thorny disputes that come up when everyone is talking just a little too loud and arguing about things that don’t matter. Not only was she right. She was, as her late husband Glen Warchol often pointed out, always right.

More than that, though, she had an uncanny knack for being able to look at things differently, to turn them around and grasp the beauty and absurdity—or sometimes both — of any situation. It’s what made her a powerful writer, a stern critic and a beautiful friend.

She was our own Dorothy Parker in any setting—erudite, with a lightning wit and sharp tongue. She was also tremendously caring and kind, and she loved all relentlessly.

As a community, we’re going to miss her insight and voice. Those of us who loved her and her spirit are going to miss her even more. Before Mary, Salt Lake City really liked the Beatles. Thanks to her, now it’s all about The Stones. With love, xxoomm.  —Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune columnist

For a Random Bit of Pink

I miss my friend. I didn’t believe it when I heard. She made her escape; she’s likely stranded herself on an island weaving spells to protect her cat, Halo, fermenting coconut milk into some approximation of mezcal or perhaps off to the mountains of Oaxaca and a new career as a pink-haired bruja living in a well-appointed cave where local villagers bring food (and mezcal in clay jars) in exchange for spells ensuring their good fortune. The brain does funny things to protect us from grief.   

Many will recount Mary’s doubtless virtues; sure, her wit and wisdom made us all rise to the occasion.

Food and drink were an excuse to talk and share. The point was never the food or drink but the people, and I count myself fortunate to have been in her orbit. High tea? Sure, but one sunny day we drank mezcal out of the trunk of my car; she let me keep the antique shot glass, the love was in the sharing. 

Always the smartest person in the room, always, but in keeping with her generous soul, she let me in on the joke without making me feel like a dope. She reminded me an awful lot of my own mother, whip-smart and literate. After my mom passed, Mary stepped in, little did she know, and I felt that much less of an alien talking to her. Losing a mom once is terrible, losing one twice is still making me swallow hard in the dark. Oh, for a random bit of pink. —Francis Fecteau, owner, Libations, Inc.

Oh, How She Jangled

It’s unbelievable, impossible really, that Mary is gone. That she was vacationing on the coast, hundreds of miles from Salt Lake, only makes it seem more so. Like she extended the trip, deciding to stay a few months longer, writing shoreside and posting unexpected pops of pink on her social media accounts from walks on the beach.

That’s what I tell myself when the grief of reality is too hard to process.

We walked nearly every week, seven miles round trip up City Creek Canyon, with Mary rattling off little known facts about the New World warbler, A.A. Milne’s early literary career and the similarities between making Mezcal and barbacoa. She knew everything—everything—about everything and was warm, clever, cynical, earnest. She made you think and laugh and embraced you like a dear friend, whether she had known you years or hours. Mary jangled, just like the stacked silver bracelets and rings that became, along with her tousled hair and colorful cowboy boots, her trademark.

I fell in love with her immediately, working alongside her at the magazine, perpetually wowed by her warmth, humor and endless knowledge. Over the past decade, she became one of my closest friends, though “friend” doesn’t really capture the depth of a relationship with a woman like Mary. I still find myself writing lists in my mind of things I want to share with her over bottles of rose bubbles when she gets back from the coast.

Much like her fashion sense, Mary made Salt Lake a more vibrant and exciting place. Her presence left an undeniable mark on the state’s food and drink culture, in the arts and on the many people she worked with, drank with, and laughed with. I will forever miss her and forever be grateful she was my friend. —Marcie Young Cancio, former Salt Lake magazine editor

Mary Brown Malouf
Photo courtesy Hollystone Distilling

‘Pink-Clad Bedazzled Spitfire’

Mary Malouf gleefully introduced herself to me 20 years or so ago following a nerve-wracking DABC liquor commission hearing wherein my restaurant was granted the first license to serve alcohol in formerly dry Boulder, Utah. She was overjoyed, ebullient and conspiratorial. The meeting had the quality of love at first sight. We became something significant to each other almost immediately, and shortly thereafter she asked me to officiate the wedding of she and her beloved Glen. To say my friendship with Mary changed my life is the truth, and don’t all true loves do that for us? My grief and sorrow at Mary’s sudden departure from this realm is deep and matched only by the intense gratitude that I got to be close to such a light. Mary inspired, informed, mentored, delighted and illuminated. Like everyone who had the experience of being loved by that brilliant, pink-clad bedazzled spitfire, I will miss her terribly, xoxomm —Blake Spalding (she/her), owner, Hell’s Backbone Grill

Red Rock Memories

Big beautiful you! So smart, so loud, so wonderfully bold. Thank you for including us in so much. Our restaurant is so far away from Salt Lake City, and you always made us feel so much a part of things. You were such an ally. So inclusive and protective and championing! Thank you for always giving Blake and I the royal treatment of laughter and champagne and your golden-pink vibrations of fabulousness. I loved visiting the little house you shared with Glen, the cowboy boots on the shelf over the stairs. Now, I arrange mine like that, too. The summer after Glen died, at Francis Fecteau’s wonderful wine camp, we stayed together in hotel rooms. Vines you and Glen planted, we, too, were tending. Grapes your feet crushed with Glen on the last trip, we got to taste as wine on this trip. You carried Glen’s eyeglasses, and losing them meant the grief might unspool you, away from us, toward him. Glen’s glasses kept you here. We protected them fiercely.

Thank you for sharing the fragility and the wholeness of your love with me. Red rock memories of you in our restaurant, you and Glen, you and Anna. Your Daddy. The monks. Your cat on a leash. But now I’ve lost my eyeglasses, and now there’s a Mary-sized hole in my heart, and the missing is like a great wave. I will miss you with everything in me. The memories I have hold you in Boulder, xoxomm  —Jen Castle, owner, Hell’s Backbone Grill

A Daiquiri…or Five

Like so many across the land, Water Witch lost a guiding beacon in Mary Malouf. We will dearly miss her cantankerous wit, her impeccable palate and her uncanny B.S. meter. ’Til we meet again! With love, xoxomm —Sean Neves, Scott Gardner and Matt Pfohl, owners, Water Witch

Mary’s Email and a Gift

“I sent you a gift….in case you wonder where it’s from. XXOOMM” She was gone before I could answer.

I had indeed received a puzzling parcel from Texas with no indication of who had sent it. The thought that it might be from Mary never occurred to me. I have the contents beside me now: A vintage postcard of The Bell Memorial with the inscription: “Enjoy!” Handwritten, but not signed, a sticker from the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas, a second sticker saying, “Love Everyone” And a little plastic Ziplock bag with a silver chain and tiny, tiny silver heart. The necklace’s bag has a black felt marker inscription with the words: 18” F***. Then I saw in the tiniest-ever letters the same word inscribed on the heart. Now the gift is a memorial—a Bell Memorial to the invention of the telephone with the message from Texas and Mary saying, “Enjoy” and “Love everyone.”  —Jann Haworth, artist

Hi! From Charlie!

My dad worked with Mary’s husband, Glen Warchol, at The Salt Lake Tribune, and it got us into his wife’s inner-circle. I was 3 years old when I first toddled through the red door at their house on Reed Street. It would lead to a 13-year friendship through our hostess’ best and worst times.

New Year’s Eve, 2017 was the last time I got to see the dynamic duo of Glen and Mary together. Of course, everyone loved Glen and Mary for different reasons, but after Glen died in 2018, the things we loved about Mary were even more apparent. She struggled with Glen’s loss, but her friends and family were there for her.

She had such an influence on Salt Lake, one I didn’t understand when I was younger, even though I knew going out to eat with her was always a big to-do. I loved that she always asked me what I thought about the food. Or about anything. She always asked what I thought about everything.

Mary will be remembered from boardrooms and barstools across the world. I like to think she was the same in both spaces, personally. Now I’m just scared we will never see another person who comes near the woman Mary was. What I do know: thanks to her, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. —Charlie Gehrke, 16, High school student and Gentleman’s Gentleman

For the Love of Community

As an immigrant, restaurateur, manufacturer and caterer residing in the state of Utah, I have had my highs and lows, successes and failures. I have also experienced the kind of support from clients, friends, government and community you cannot give unless you are Mary Brown Malouf.

Mary was a one-of-a-kind soul so aware of how the industry works, with no personal agenda, but happy to patiently support, suggest and coach. She took it upon herself to help us groom our own business, without anything in return but love and respect. Through her words and support, she was a great representation for our state.

I was extremely lucky to have crossed her path, and the food industry in Utah should be so proud to have known the one and only Mary Brown Malouf. —Jorge Fierro, president, Rico Brand

Renaissance Mary

Mary Brown Malouf graduated with degrees from the University of Texas with a major in Latin and a minor in Art History. Her interests were in the following; food, dining, folk art, wine and her special skills were food styling for photos. In no particular order, Mary owned a catering company, conceived and executed marketing catalogs for Central Market in Texas, wrote about cuisine and edited for D magazine in Dallas and eventually for The Salt Lake Tribune. Back in 2007, we found ourselves searching for a great food writer, Mary came highly recommended and she quickly became our editor, juggling lots of balls while keeping a steady eye on the growing and adventurous Utah food scene.

Smart, witty, sophisticated in a boho way, Mary was a student of the culture she lived in. Texas, California, Utah…it did not matter! She became part of every place. We will miss her feistiness, her empathy for the struggles of the small business owner, her curiosity about her world, her ability to make a magazine for a community. We will continue finding ways to showcase Utah at its best knowing she would want that from us for our readers and friends. —Margaret Mary Shuff, publisher, Salt Lake magazine

Margaritas with Mary

What does one write about Mary? I could list her many contributions. Instead, I offer a peek into Mary, my friend who is greatly missed. Nothing brightened my day more than Susan, our manager, coming through the kitchen informing me Mary and Anna were there for a mother-daughter dinner. Or the phone call from Mary to make a reservation for her family as Daddy was up from Texas on a visit and she couldn’t wait to bring him. Most nights I would be invited to sit with them, share in wonderful conversation and a few margaritas. Mary and I had many of those conversations. Mary loved Utah and had one of the biggest hearts I have ever known.  —Matthew Lake, chef and owner, Alamexo

Roaring In

Mary Malouf came roaring into Salt Lake in 2007 like a rogue wave crashing improbably onto our dry desert. Big. Bold. Unpredictable. What would she make of us and our nascent foodie and distillery destinations? And what to make of her? Pink lace dress, turquoise cowboy boots, a cacophony of necklaces and weapon-sized bracelets.

Mary came here because she loved a man, but she eventually came to love us too. A complicated love in which she dared us to be bigger, bolder, more inventive. But she also called our attention to the things we should love more about our community just the way it is. She intimidated restaurateurs, then made them her friends. She hosted daring dinner parties. She mentored our children, paying special attention to lost artists and tortured adolescents. She made judgments about the best and worst of Utah food and style and culture. And we listened.

And then we lost her as suddenly and improbably as she arrived, carried away by an ocean wave. So sudden. So unpredictable. We are still so stunned. But we are forever changed by having known her. —Vicki Varela, managing director, Utah Office of Tourism